By Clint Thompson
A one-size-fits-all regulation to protect workers from heat stress could have significant ramifications for farmers and farming operations.
That is why the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is urging restraint as it waits to see what standard the federal government develops, says Allison Crittenden, director of Congressional Relations at AFBF.
“Is it a requirement to just have a heat safety plan in place to have water available to employees or is it going to be very structured and rigid where at certain temperatures, certain requirements go into effect? One thing that I appreciate is that this is going through a rule-making process so there will be many opportunities for agricultural organizations like Farm Bureau to weigh in but also for farmers themselves to provide their feedback to OSHA as they’re developing what this heat illness standard will look like,” Crittenden said. “Hopefully, a multitude of viewpoints, including those on farms, are listened to and heard in the development of this regulation. It could have some big impacts.
“For us, we’ve always maintained that it’s very important to take care of your workforce, but it’s another place where a one-size-fits-all regulation is not the best way to promote a healthy and safe working environment. There are different factors that determine how one may or may not respond to certain temperatures. We want to make sure we don’t’ impose an onerous one-size-fits-all regulation on our farms.”
The U.S. Department of Labor announced in September that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was initiating enhanced measures to protect workers better in hot environments. Included in those measures is a rulemaking process it is developing for a workplace heat standard.
“Depending on how strenuous the job that someone’s doing is would certainly have an impact on how the temperature outside makes you feel,” Crittenden said. “We always want to make sure everybody has access to water and feels compelled to take breaks when they need to. We know our employees are working hard, but I’m not sure it needs to be prescriptive.”